Citing concerns about public safety and wildfires, the North Bend City Council narrowly approved a change to city law on Tuesday that will outlaw aerial fireworks.
Following similar moves across King County, the ban makes it illegal to sell, possess or discharge aerial fireworks within city limits. The ban does not apply to small ground fireworks.
“This ordinance is intended to keep our community safe,” said Councilmember Heather Koellen, chair of the Public Health and Safety Committee.
The ban will take effect in one year, following a state-required waiting period. Aerial fireworks will be legal in North Bend until then, including on the 4th of July.
While the ban will impact future holiday celebrations, Koellen said the risk of wildfires in the community alongside a warming climate was “too great.”
A large stretch of land around North Bend is located inside the Wild-Urban-Interface, an area at greater risk when wildfires occur due to the intermixing of forests with people and urban development.
Koellen pointed to the Bolt Creek Fire, a wildfire that burned 25 miles outside of North Bend near Index, as an example of the ongoing risk. While that fire was human-caused, specifics about the cause have not been determined.
“The reasons we need this are undeniable,” Koellen said. “Forest fires on the west coast have been increasing in size and severity for the past several years.”
While many of the fireworks that cause large fires are already illegal, there is still a growing risk of wildfires on the western side of the state, said Ben Hudson, a battalion chief with Eastside Fire and Rescue. Additional fireworks restrictions also help reduce injuries, Hudson said.
“After a few years, there’s less fireworks incidents that happen because there is less volume out there,” he said.
The other benefit the firework ban in North Bend is it creates more uniformity between Snoqualmie, North Bend and King County law. Snoqualmie has banned aerial fireworks since 2016. In unincorporated King County, a ban on all consumer fireworks went into effect this year.
City staff say that uniformity would make things easier for the Snoqualmie Police, who provide law enforcement service in both cities.
Koellen said the ban has the support of the police department and Eastside Fire and Rescue, who contracts with North Bend for fire service.
Councilmember Mary Miller shared concerns about the noise caused by large fireworks, which can be traumatic for combat veterans and pets.
“That’s a concern I always keep in my heart,” she said.
The ban passed by a 4-3 vote, with councilmember Jonathan Rosen, Brenden Elwood and Alan Gothelf voting against the measure.
Rosen said he did not have a strong opinion on the change, but stated a preference to wait on approval until results from a recent community survey were available. He said he was unsure if a majority of the community supports a ban.
Rosen also questioned if there was enough data to support claims that a ban would lead to an increase in public safety or reduction in injuries.
“I don’t want to make an emotional vote on this,” he said.
Since the law change cannot be enacted for another year under state law, city staff said it is possible the ban could be changed or rescinded within that time frame. Although, that appears unlikely.